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Culture Film

Don’t Look Up

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

When astronomers Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a meteorite that will cause an extinction-level event in six months, they must get the news out. After telling the President (Meryl Streep) about the catastrophic event, they are promptly ignored amid campaign worries and realise they must tell the world themselves.

What follows is a satirical allegory of society, and the science world’s futile warnings about climate change, by an A-Lister cast which also includes Cate Blanchette, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and more.  

Don’t Look Up is far from the best film of 2021. Critics have been calling it a disaster with headlines such as ”Don’t Look Up…’ or You Might See One Bomb of a Movie Hurtling Right Toward You’ from Rollingstone Magazine and ‘Look Away: Why Star-studded Comet Satire Don’t Look Up is a Disaster’ from The Guardian. While I must first give kudos to the ruthless wit of these review titles (it was a complete free-for-all), their harsh criticisms of the film are merited. 

I understand director Adam McKay’s anger towards politicians and social media companies for their complacent attitude towards the climate crisis as I, and many others, share these feelings. Thus, shoving this one-note message into my face for two-and-a-half hours is not needed! Between Dicaprio and Lawrence’s incessant screaming about doomsday and Streep’s obnoxiously on-the-nose Trump satire, the film is too full-on, with no pacing and no time to breath amidst its haughty preaching. 

There have of course been other films that grapple with the climate crisis and Don’t Look Up is neither original nor enlightening. On a technical level, the editing is abrupt, and the special effects are over-embellished; a reflection of the film as a whole.  

Despite a stacked cast, there are not many standout performances. Dicaprio and Lawrence are on good form for what the story is, however, it is Timothy Chalamet with a minor role as a philosophical-skater whose character I have the most time for. Chalamet is funny when appropriate and strikes a chord of humility with his musings on religion. While Chalamet’s performance is a silver lining, the oppressively A-Lister cast seems hypocritical in the face of the film’s criticism of celebrity culture. 

Despite being widely heralded as a ‘disaster movie’ by critics, with a 55% rotten Tomato Rating, Don’t Look Up holds the record for most hours viewed in a week in Netflix history, and is given high ratings by viewers. While it was the sort of fiasco critics were expecting, the film struck a chord with the general public. Personally, I’ll admit that watching Don’t Look Up was therapeutic in lieu of the nihilistic pandemic reality of today.

Despite all its faults, it felt good to watch a Netflix-produced blockbuster screaming its head off about the climate disaster. I became emotionally invested as I was filled with dread at the continually ignored warnings of the meteorite and downright fear at the film’s end. There are no qualities about the film itself that can be credited for causing my vehement emotions, except for its reminder of the possibly bleak future ahead. However, Don’t Look Up made me feel something.

Image courtesy of Impawards via Wikimedia Commons